2.0 Background

2.1 Archaeological background

The study is based on amphorae from current excavations by the Egypt Exploration Society at Memphis (Bourriau 1990) and Amarna (Serpico 1996). These sites complement each other: Memphis was capital of Egypt for most of the New Kingdom, Amarna only during the reign of Akhenaten, c.1360-1330 BC. Memphis provides a long stratified sequence of domestic housing whereas Amarna has evidence from a variety of religious, royal and domestic contexts.

Throughout the Late Bronze Age, Egypt was the dominant power in the region from which the jars come and our evidence covers the rise and fall of its influence. The amphorae are a key to reconstructing trade networks whose history complements political events. Their evidence contributes to chronological debates because they provide synchronisms between sites and some vessels bear inscriptions with Egyptian regnal years.

2.2 Geological background

Four elements of Levantine geology are relevant (Map 1), and discussed further in 5.1. The first comprises deposits along the coast of Israel and its immediate hinterland, including later Pleistocene to early Holocene coastal sands and formations such as the kurkar and the hamra units (Sivan 1996; Sivan et al. 1999; Neev et al. 1987; Emery and Neev 1960). In contrast the coast through Lebanon and Syria contains few significant Quaternary deposits, those of the Cretaceous and Tertiary predominating except south of Tartus and between Baniyas and Lattakiya (Beydoun 1977, 321-22).

The second element comprises deposits of limestone, dolomite, chalk, chert and marls of Cenomanian to Turonian, Senonian to Paleocene and Eocene periods. They are widespread inland in southern and central Israel and extend from north and south of the Jezreel Valley to the coast. Cenomanian to Paleocene and the Eocene formations extend into southern Lebanon, the latter rarer north of Beirut (Bartov 1994; Picard and Golani 1992).

Thirdly, there are outcrops of basalts, particularly those of Miocene and Pliocene age, most prominent around the Jezreel Valley, extending into Galilee and Syria, but present in southern Israel, Jordan and Turkey (Bartov 1994; Beydoun 1977; Pinar-Erdem and Ilhan 1977).

The fourth element comprises the ophiolite complexes, uplifted portions of oceanic crust containing a basic sequence of igneous, together with metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Igneous rocks contribute basalts and dolerite; metamorphic contribute schist; and sedimentary contribute replacement and radiolarian chert (Nockolds et al. 1978, 138, 294-96). Major areas of ophiolite complexes include west and south-west Cyprus, central and southern Turkey and north-western Syria (Whitechurch et al. 1984; Juteau 1980; Parrot 1980).


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